By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One Twin Cities school sent dozens of students to Belgium for spring break.

It is not the only Minnesota connection to Tuesday morning’s terrorist attack.

More than 4,000 miles separate Minnesota from the scene of terror in Brussels. But for a former Minnesota lawmaker, the scene is not far from his backyard.

Ryan Winkler, a former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, talked with WCCO over Skype Tuesday.

“Public transport’s closed, the embassy advised us to shelter in place,” Winkler said.

After his wife got a job, Europe became home for Winkler and his family. Brussels is where they live. His wife was just at the airport Monday.

“Schools are closed and locked down and parents can’t get their kids until the end of the school day,” Winkler said. “So for me, I’m really glad that my kids are actually home on break.”

Another group of Minnesota kids have also been in Belgium. A group of teenagers from South St. Paul High School landed in Brussels a few days ago. They got to Normandy before the attack, and are all safe.

Also nearby is Dr. David Lilja, a computer engineering professor at the University of Minnesota. He is in Belgium doing research in Ghent, west of Brussels.

The university confirms he is safe, but it may be a while before anyone is at rest.

“I think it will take a long time before people begin to shake things off and start moving on again,” Winkler said.

WCCO also heard from a Lakeville native and journalism student who is studying abroad in Brussels, who is also safe.

Several business travelers are also in the area for 3M. The company says all their employees are safe.

A temporary travel restriction is currently in place in Belgium.

Gov. Mark Dayton has ordered all U.S. and Minnesota flags to be flown at half staff in honor of the victims of the Brussels attack from Tuesday evening until Saturday night.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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